It may not seem like a compliment if someone boasts about sleeping through a piece of music, but for German-born British composer Max Richter, he encourages you to doze off while listening to his new album SLEEP. Labelling it as his "personal lullaby for a frenetic world", the entire piece runs for a cool eight hours — the supposed optimum amount of hours for sleep (although the Singapore Armed Forces may dispute that as one hour too long).
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While some of us are already having trouble sitting down and listening to full albums, Max Richter intends for listeners to experience the entire record in one session — during a night's worth of rest, in this case. "Sleeping is one of the most important things we all do,” Richter said. "We spend a third of our lives asleep and it’s always been one of my favourite things, ever since I was a child."
He consulted with David Eagleman, a renowned neuroscientist, to understand how the brain fuctions during sleep — advice that proved enormously helpful to establish the album's disarmingly simple concept. He says, "For me, SLEEP is an attempt to see how that space when your conscious mind is on holiday can be a place for music to live."
Richter himself is no stranger to challenging projects, having had the chance to recently release a bold reinterpretation of the beloved piece The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, along with composing the score to HBO sci-fi series The Leftovers. Being one of the modern classical scene's most cherished and innovative individuals, he's heralded alongside composers like Olafur Arnalds, who we got to speak to recently, for pushing boundaries and bridging gaps between the classical music world and other genres like electronic music and avant-garde cultures.
Audience members in Berlin will get to experience the full SLEEP treatment by Richter when he premieres the entire eight-hour piece from midnight till 8am. And of course, the audience will be provided with beds instead of the standard plush concert hall seats. They, too, will be encouraged to sleep through the performance. As the composer puts it, “It’s really an experiment to try and understand how we experience music in different states of consciousness."
While SLEEP and its condensed one-hour version from SLEEP won't be out until September 4, here are five other albums you could try playing while getting some greatly needed shut-eye. Your experience may vary.
The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid | Stars of the Lid
We're probably cheating a bit with ambient music but we assure you, Stars of the Lid have enough variation that makes them one of the premier experimental groups of the 2000s while focusing on the beauty of drone — a style of music that, if you will allow it, can lull you into a state of numbness that's already a pretty transcendent experience without sleep. The Tired Sounds... presents everything that's so great about this duo that may just make your sleep even better.
ØØ Void | Sunn O)))
While this enigmatic duo revels in harrowing darkness for most of their astoundingly crafted discography, ØØ Void (pronounced Double-O Void) features Sunn O))) at their most fundamental — just custom-tuned guitars unleashing crushing waves of hypnotic drone riffs that, depending on your tolerance for heaviness, will probably result in dreams of heavy tranquility or (hopefully not) dread.
The Pavilion of Dreams | Harold Budd
A hidden gem produced by ambient pioneer Brian Eno, The Pavilion of Dreams features a myriad of instruments, including glockenspiels, harps and saxophones, but they're utilized and treated with an incredible dream-like effect. The result is an astoudingly beautiful album, one that will conjure up many mental images of endless green meadows or the empty streets of 1970s London at 3am.
Victorialand | Cocteau Twins
While we could sing praises of how Cocteau Twins have made their mark on generations of indie music (there's absolutely no reason you shouldn't listen to Heaven or Las Vegas), this album in particular would be the perfect companion for a supreme night's rest. The heavily reverb-ed acoustic guitars produce utterly sublime melodies, along with vocalist Elizabeth Fraser's astounding vocals. Fit for dreams of flying through the Northern Lights with Jonsi.
(Trivia: Cocteau Twins collaborated with Harold Budd for the 1988 album The Moon and the Melodies. Match made in heaven, we must say.)
Pygmalion | Slowdive
Slowdive have always been a "dreamy" band but Pygmalion takes the cake in terms of vast soundscapes, which gets them on this list. Moving away further from traditional structures, Pygmalion features breathtaking arrangements with minimal, almost jazz-like guitars that feel more meditative than anything off Souvlaki. Simply put, this album would already envelop you into a state of placidity once opening track 'Rutti' comes on.